Tuesday 27 November 2012

Table Mountain – A forgotten wonder!

I lived at the foot of Table Mountain for 7 years. In the city.  Since I was first a tour bus driver and later a tour guide, I never worked in the city, but was able to take to the roads and most beautiful parts of the country. In spite of living so close to it and going up Table Mountain at least once a week, I was still appreciative of its beauty. Now it’s been almost 10 years since we have moved away from the city and living in the country side. When I go to Cape Town, I only get as far as the Northern Suburbs and it has been a while since I have got up close and personal with the over 1000m high Sandstone and Granite beauty.

This weekend I was fortunate to see it again. I met up with friends on the other side of the bay and made my way back to the city just as the sun started setting over the water. Absorbing all this from my bike was more than I could have wished for! I caught a whiff of the sticky, pungent yet fresh breeze that made it’s way over the gentle little waves. What a sight!?! Table Mountain rose out the water like a 1st place Olympian to the podium! Only way more noble and majestically! A few ships on the water in front of it rounded off the picture perfectly.  I HAD to stop – a few times – to take a picture … to capture this magnificence and stare in awe. Did I really forget how awesome this landmark was?! Or am I just taking a look with different eyes? I don’t have the answer, but what I do know is this… 

There's reason this piece of rock is so well recognized by world travellers and loved by locals! It is a sight to behold – and never to be forgotten! 

 “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” 
Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Friday 2 November 2012

Another Adventure!

Oudshoorn via back roads, Seweweekspoort, Oubergpas to Montagu

Click here to see map: 

As I did my previous trip solo, I dared not do the back roads which I really wanted to, because when you get stuck on a quiet road, it can get very lonely after a few hours, not to mention unsafe!

 Fortunately Abie was on his way back from East London and we decided to hook up at Oudtshoorn. Although not very far for me, the off-the-beaten-track roads can take a while to do if one really wants to appreciate what’s around you.

I rode up from Montagu the previous day, with rain-laden clouds waiting to open on me at any moment, as I took the winding tar road through fruit farms and over mountains to Oudshoorn. Although overcast with a misty rain right along the mountains, I never really got very wet. But the heavens DID open up once I was safely in Oudshoorn. Abie did not hit it so lucky and rode in pouring rain from De Rust and arrived in Oudshoorn looking like a washed out rag – OK, not quite that bad! Only my attempt at silly humour! But he did not need a shower that evening!

Dark, heavy clouds awaited us on departure the next morning. According to my phone’s very trustworthy weather forecast, we were going to have 0.3 mm of rain for the day, and in my books, that is non-existent. So we did not put on our raingear and left in the direction of the Swartberg Mountains.  The road we were going to take started at the foot of that spectacular range. Less than a km and the drops were falling. Within moments we had to pull over under some trees and get the raingear out - and on!! WHAT a mission when you are balancing mid air, your shoes are dirty and the clothes are unwilling!  As it is, there is barely enough room for me in the rain gear, let alone me WITH all the riding gear and padding!

We were heading in the direction that was not only dark, but we could see the pouring rain all along the foot of the mountains. By the time we got to the first turn off, I was salivating for a hot, milky Wimpy coffee (and I am not even a big coffee drinker!). The rain was coming down in buckets and there was NO way we could get onto muddy gravel in this weather. Yet Abie turns in and says he just wants so ride in a little way, and since we are on tar, I follow, wondering how far before he will decide that the reason we can hardly see in front of us, is due to rain?! 

At the next turn-off, I hope he has come to his senses and that we can head back for a dry seat and hot coffee (breakfast would also be welcome!).  He says he just wants to feel what the gravel would feel like, let’s push on a bit. WTH?! Serious? Really?!? The rain is hammering down so hard, I was expecting my visor to crack at any moment, and this crazy coot wants to push on to FEEL the gravel?!? So on we go, and instead of the km or two I expected, we rode through farms between the mountains for I guess about 15km. By now I was having fantasies of hot chocolate and soft eggs! We get to the gravel (at last) and what does this guy do?? He bangs with his foot on the gravel and declares he thinks it is fit for riding!! But the choice is mine he says. If I feel we should rather turn back, that is fine with him. 

Now since I have never ridden wet muddy roads before – oh wait, that one time in the Transkei, where I came off my bike TWICE in less than a km!! So yeah, my bet is it is much safer to get back to warm coffee, dry roads and less chances of breaking my neck! And for every fall, Abie will have to help me get my bike up, the mirrors can break off, everything will be covered in mud and my ego can actually also do with no falling! I am still formulating the pros of getting the hell out of there and Abie says: Lets ride in a little way and see how it goes; we can always turn back if it looks bad…

WHAT??!!? In spite of every heartbeat racing in my throat and my mind screaming to turn around, I nod in agreement and off we go! Although the road is hard, I am sure it is slippery as can be and I take the bends in absolute terror.  Any coffee and cold is now forgotten. I am as stiff as a 3 day corpse and I could not help wondering if a motorbike can sense fear like a horse and if I would be bucked off at the next turn. I was wiping clingy raindrops from my visor and tears down my cheeks all at the same time.  Rivers were over flowing and lovely waterfalls were coming down the mountains. I guess my appreciation was less than adequate at that stage, but my main aim was to stay on the bike. By now both bikes (and riders) were covered in mud, but the rain had subsided. The next moment I was eating dust. Literally within 30 metres, we were riding from mud to dust! You can imagine the havoc the dust was causing on my drenched clothes and bike. Fortunately I am crazy enough not to worry about that at the moment - until I get home and realise I cannot clean either!

Since the map I had and the GPS Abie had, were not too wonderful, we rode along more on a sense of feeling than KNOWING where we were going! We turned left at a T-junction indicating Calitzdorp and the next moment we were riding between the most incredible red mountainous outcrops! Almost like painted mushrooms between the lush green backdrop of newly leafed Thorn trees and other kinds of Acacia. Sediments which are rich in an iron mineral called Hematite which oxidized in the warm humid climate to a reddish colour, gave Red Stone Hills its name! What a site! Unfortunately by the time I stopped to take pics, the clouds had covered the bit of sun and taken away some of the spectacularness (yep, my made-up word!) of the colours. Shortly after that we hit the tar road, headed to Calitzdorp and found a place that would serve coffee, but not breakfast. As we munched an energy bar and coffee the owner told us we MUST take another road before we leave, as we missed some great views by turning into the Red Hills road.  

So we took a detour first, and saw some more stunning views, including a huge dam overflowing. And more winding, pass-like gravel road into the Little Karoo. We turned back after about 10km, as we wanted to do the Seweweekspoort pass and unsure how the weather was out that way. 

It    It started drizzling as we entered the winding, muddy road through the picturesque, rocky walls of the Seweweekspoort. While having coffee, I had asked Abie if he was scared going on the first stretch of wet dirt road and he said no, never. One must just relax and the bike will take care of itself. Somehow that answer had totally calmed me down and I felt if he was not afraid, I had no reason to be. So when we hit the very wet road, I made a mind switch. I relaxed, looked around and really enjoyed what I was seeing. The most incredible rock formations, as high as one can look and as far as you can see. Add beautiful flowers, greenery, waterfalls and rivers and I had just discovered one of my new favourite destinations! I lifted my visor, and the wet stinging of the raindrops against my cold skin was such a stark reminder that I was alive! Invigorated actually! I could pick up several different smells as we rode: A smell of some kind of wild flowers or shrubs (yeah right!), Jasmine at one stage and a strong minty smell another time. 

Shortly after entering, we stopped for lunch consisting of buns with ham-flavoured liver pâté (the kind you just squish out the tube wrapping), some dried fruit and a shared apple, washed down with water. A meal fit for a king (or his servant) – no matter, we were soaked, full and happy!

I do believe this amazing “portal” through the mountains would not have looked as intense and beautiful if it was a dry, hot and dusty day. We had several water crossings over the two days, and places I had never seen water in, were over flowing. Here the dust had been washed away and the colours were bright and brilliant. Awesome!!

Once through to the other side, the road opened up and we were on a big, wide, well maintained gravel road. Although the road was in a good condition, it circumvented a very long stretch of mountain range before we could get to the Warmwaterberg hot springs. By now the clouds had lifted and we had a dry road and sunny skies. 

I saw the place where I came off my bike a few years back and severely smashed my knee. Much less intimidating from the other side. Or might it be that I was so tuned into the danger? Or maybe just the fact that now there were enough signs and warnings to keep World War 3 at bay?!!

We opted to go and refuel in Ladismith, as the 70km distance that was told to us by the coffee shop owner was actually a neat 180km! We could have been stuck in the middle of nowhere! Since we were staying across the road from Ronnie’s Sex shop, we had to go and have a drink there to wash down the mud, dust and tiredness of the day.

Day 2

Click here to see the map: 

10 Minutes from departure, we were still unsure which route we should take the following day. We decided to go through the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. We had a bakkie escort us all the way through, never going over 40km/h. We hoped, but did not see any animals and we were not allowed to take pics if we did see some. There were some Springbok and once just out of the reserve, we saw some beautiful Gemsbok. 

From here it was a big, open (and pretty straight) road, lined with flowers and plants stretching to the hills on either side. Everything was still very green due to the rain of a few weeks earlier. 

After stopping for pictures, I opened up a bit to catch up, only slowing down at the low water crossings, (which is an artificial bridge that allows crossing a river or stream when water is low). All were dry except the last one, which I saw too late and entered at a fairly high speed, getting everything single thing on that bike drenched – yours truly included!

At least I have now discovered that soaking wet clothes make for a cool ride on a hot day!

At the bottom of the spectacular Ouberg Pass, we turned off onto a rough, narrow little track heading over the mountains and via some farms into Montagu. The view from up there was beautiful!

We had to keep our wits about us, as it was hard work riding up and down the (technically challenging) rocky slopes. But all worth it!! My sister lives close by and we popped in for something to drink, where she went and showed us a big dam with Koi fish. In spite of not being the greatest fish-fan, I really found these fish quite stunning!

Once again I had an absolutely amazing trip, with no problems along the way, good company and breathtaking views. Abie was a pillar of strength and thanks to him, I got to overcome my fear of wet muddy roads and saw one of the most spectacular roads around!

Mud for make-up and gasoline for perfume – I'm a Dirt bike diva !!

Sunday 30 September 2012


First of all, I must admit that this trip exceeded any expectations I had. To be honest, I was not sure what I was hoping for other than seeing part of my country I have not seen, having a good time on my bike and maybe meeting a few more friends at the Wild Dog Bash.

I was severely impressed with my tires, not planning to, but getting all my money’s worth – VAT included – out of them! Having a friend turn out to be a stunning riding companion and helping make the trip unforgettable – thanks Abie, you were awesome and I always felt safe with you! In the end, the riding was superb, the scenes breathtaking and the experience something never be forgotten!

A dream come true! Standing in Lundeans Nek Pass!
 Things I have learnt (and NOT learnt) during my trip:

  1. Riding a heavily loaded bike on gravel is easier than when it is has no load.
  2. I enjoyed doing the solo thing, having my own time and schedule.
  3. A “she-wee” is an irreplaceable must for any woman in riding gear.
  4. Once you understand the thing, a GPS can be the best traveling accessory.
  5. Panty liners can be a substitute for underwear!
  6. The beauty of a country lies not only in its scenery, but also in its people (and goats and cattle!)
  7. Knobbly tires CAN do 20 000kms!
  8. Having a friend as a good traveling companion is a HUGE bonus and can make all the difference.
  9. 5 Imodium’s are NOT a solution for a tummy bug!!
  10. A long hard day has nothing to do with the distance you travel.
  11. BMW surely must be the best, no nonsense bike out there when it comes to comfortable, but rough riding!
  12. Springtime is a wonderful time to see parts of this country.
 What I did not learn:

  1. Why someone would still try and hitch hike while a bike, loaded to the hilt, passes?
  2. Why a GPS insists on taking the best route, in spite of the suggested route being ignored for 60km and then still rather taking you back 3 times further?
  3. Why someone who has slept enough, feels to wake every single other soul by revving his bike and shouting at 6 in the morning?
 What I will do differently on the next trip:

  1. (Try) to get away earlier in the mornings, for any eventuality.
  2. Have anti-acids CLOSE by and handy!
  3. Find a less time-consuming way for taking pics.
  4. Try and travel without needing the extra luggage of tent, mattress and sleeping bag.
My wish list: (so if you have any of this 2nd hand to sell at a good price, please let me know!)

  1. A good (blue tooth?) GPS.
  2. Legs a few inches longer (or a bike a few inches lower – hint hint Geoff and Nolene!)
  3. The Drift HD 1080 – a super snazzy new device for taking pics and videos
  4. Soft pannier luggage – shortening the time spent tying and unfastening luggage every day.
Experiencing the beauty of my country from my motorbike has been one of my most rewarding experiences yet! I want to thank my husband and folks for being there for me and letting me go, in spite of being so worried about my safety. I cannot wait to take on the next adventure!

Saturday 29 September 2012

My final day - 12


I fell asleep while still trying to set the alarm clock for the next day, resulting in only waking at 8am! What a good rest and pretty sure my body was relieved to have a little extra time on my back rather than the back side! For some reason that part of my anatomy seems to be very sensitive and bruised?! After a lovely breakfast of fruit, yogurt and a bit of muesli, I set of just as it started drizzling.

An absolutely beautiful ride over the pass looking down on the Langkloof – Route 62! It is totally beyond me WHY on earth people travelling between CT to PE would use the N2?? Route 62 must be one of not only the prettiest routes of all routes in South Africa, but the road is well kept and carries very little traffic. Coming back via N2, I got soo frustrated with almost 150kms between the Stormsriver Bridge and George having speed limits of between 60 and 100 – most of the way not allowing you over 80km/h!! Great big wide open national road and speed cops hiding in the bushes just wishing for you to go over 80! And in all of that distance, you get to see the see only once when passing Wilderness!

The Langkloof on the other hand has you riding between two mountain ranges, covered in either Fynbos, grasslands or fruit trees. Everything looks green and inviting and not an inch you can go without seeing something new and spectacular! Not to mention any traffic official and crazy speed limits. – Worried about where you will stop for your take-away meal? Well don’t!! – Pack a flask and sandwiches and enjoy the beauty having a picnic at the side of the road – and it will take you NO longer than waiting for your ready-made, greasy meal!
Sorry for the rant – maybe best if I don’t inform the whole world what they are missing out on! Back to my trip!
Shortly after the pass I started hitting rain, getting so hard I had to go at a snails-pace! It banged so hard on my visor, I was certain it would crack! The torrential downpour lasted for a good 80kms. OK, maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but when you are tired and cold and on your way home, I guess things seem to be a bit worse than they really are! When I got to Oudshoorn, I dressed into my remaining raingear – yes, the pants were drenched already, but I hoped the suit would keep out some of the strong winds I had from the front. I looked like something between the Michelin man and the little Oros guy with all that gear on! I’m sure with that size; no one would look for any trouble with me!
I got enticed by the smell of home-made baking and ended up gobbling a Thai-Chicken pie. Along the way, while the heartburn was tearing through my insides, I remembered why I NEVER buy pies! It had been ages since I had gotten so cold, in spite of all the clothes! Fuelling in Ladismith, the clouds moved over a bit and what do I see?!... SNOW on all the mountains!! No wonder I could not feel my fingers!
Rode through a few more cloud breaks lots of rain. As I was nearing home I got very worried about the last km on to the farm. The gravel will be muddy and super slippery and I would hate to come to a crashing halt meters before I reach home! 500m before home, suddenly the rain stopped and the road was dry?! I reached my folks place just after 4pm on Friday, the 28th. 12 Days after starting the 3102km exhilarating adventure of a life time! Bike and myself safe and unscathed! All the thanks and glory to God!

My trip summery/conclusion and Gallery to follow shortly.